Chocolate makes everything seem nicer. Stealing £140,000 worth of an unspecified product: pretty nasty. Stealing £140,000 worth of chocolate flakes: well, quite endearing, at least superficially. Stealing £140,000 worth of chocolate flakes and then offering them to ice-cream sellers: positively charming.
This seems to be a fairly consistent rule. A seven-metre-high scrambled egg sculpture would be repulsive. Make it out of chocolate, and suddenly it’s fine (although having a sculpture “modelled after the Rockefeller Center, Empire State Building and Chrysler Building in the United States” does, sadly, seem to mean “er, shaped like a big rectangle”). Squirrels stealing pieces of dog flesh: slightly alarming. Squirrels stealing chocolate eggs: delightful. And if you’re approached by cocoa bean thieves trying to sell $150,000 worth of beans, of course it’s going to be more exciting and less scary than if they were trying to sell you $150,000 worth of stolen TVs.
One of my favourite chocolate stories is set centuries ago, in the 1600s. Spanish colonists in Mexico had a habit of drinking hot chocolate everywhere, even in church, but their bishop — perhaps understandably — wasn’t too keen: sure, a few popes had decided that chocolate wasn’t a food, as long as it was drunk in water instead of being mixed with milk or eggs or chickpeas (chickpeas!), but that didn’t mean it wouldn’t distract from the sermon. The bishop banned chocolate in his church; the colonists responded by trooping off to another church; the bishop responded by excommunicating them; they, in turn, responded by killing him with a cup of poisoned hot chocolate. (Allegedly.) Somehow the mere presence of chocolate makes this a friendlier, if no less murderous, incident. And sure, the Aztecs sacrificed a lot of people to a lot of gods — but then they settled down with a nice mug of hot chocolate afterwards, so they can’t have been all that bad.
I’m not advising you to embark on a new career as a thief, or to begin sacrificing passers-by to Tezcatlipoca, but if by chance you’ve already started and you’re looking for a way to appease your horrified friends, you could do worse than bringing them a slice of this cake. It really is very nice.
Chocolate Raspberry Crumble Cake
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate, diced small
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/3 cup cocoa
1/3 cup ground nuts (that’s “nuts that have been ground”, not groundnuts; hazelnuts, almonds and peanuts are all good)
2/3 cup flour (gluten-free is fine)
1 teaspoon baking powder (gluten-free is fine)
3 tablespoons white sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup raspberries
1/4 cup chopped nuts
Preheat the oven to 160 C, then grease and flour a nine-inch cake tin.
For the cake base, melt the butter and the chocolate in a saucepan over a low heat. Allow to cool for five aminutes before stirring in the cocoa. Whisk to remove lumps, then stir in the sugar, vanilla, and eggs.
Pour the mixture into the base of the cake-tin, and put it in the oven for ten minutes.
Use that ten minutes to prepare the topping. Melt the butter; then allow it to cool for a minute while you mix the cocoa, ground nuts, flour, sugars, baking powder and salt. Pour the butter over the dry mixture and stir it in.
After the cake has been cooking for ten minutes, take it out and lay the raspberries on top carefully. There should be a slight crust by now that prevents the raspberries from sinking to the bottom.
Sprinkle the crumble topping over the raspberries (you mave have to crumble it up a bit with your hands as you do so), and then sprinkle the chopped nuts over the top of that and return the cake to the oven for another half-hour.
Can be served warm or at room temperature.